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All else being equal, people buy from people whom they like.

As a child, I was focused on results.

I remember playing tag in elementary school at recess: I was naturally fast, but not the fastest.

Jason would beat me. Always. This was not the result I was looking for.

“Just run faster, and you’ll win,” I thought.

I kept playing as hard as I could. I envisioned the results that I wanted, and I spent all my recess time running. Always.

Long_Distance_Running

I got one of the results I wanted: I got faster. I became the fastest kid on the block, easily. And when I returned to school for 5th grade, I knew it was my time.

No longer would I come in second– first was mine for the taking. It was time to show up and be a ferocious competitor.

I continued to compete after elementary school, as well, and enjoyed a series of management jobs following business school– one of which was in purchasing.

In this position, I had “sales people” calling on me all the time, and these “sales people” were always trying to be my friend first. Always.

I studied my business strategy with fervor; my knowledge of what was needed was dialed down to a science. I found the nuances of business, sales, and infrastructure to be intriguing– and competitive.

Generally, I knew more than the “sales people” did about their own product, and stumping the sales representative with the right question was easy… But it also made me look like a jerk, and that was not my intention. I wanted to flush out the truth of each sale that I encountered, and I wanted to participate competitively. I love exploring, discovering, competing; training to go “faster.”

The result I searched for in my meetings was a salesman who actually understood their product– and the business they were selling it to– and could tell me more about it than I already knew.

The prospect of being that salesman to others sounded like a fun challenge; something new I had never done before. I left managment to become the salesman of my own dreams, and found myself once again studying the successes of others… learning as much as I could about packaging.

Soon, I knew more about the products and businesses than people who had been working in my industry for years. How easy! I was going fast!

Then, through failure, I was brought back to a playground lesson.

I learned that sales is about loyalty, rather than being faster, or smarter, or more competitive than the next person. All else being equal, people buy from others whom they like. This is part of who we are as humans. A salesman must seed the trust necessary to grow loyalty in others– and only then, can they reward the loyalty of others with great results.

You don’t inspire trust with data, evidence, logic, or having a lower cost and being the fastest. You do it by making people feel great… not by being a jerk.

So did I ever become the fastest kid on the playground?

No.

I only tied for the fastest.

Did I win 50% of the time?

No.

When Jason was “it”, people would entrap me so that he could catch-up and tag me. When I was “it” people would get in my way so I couldn’t catch him.

Then, twenty years later, it hit me: people liked Jason more.


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Ryan Fonda